Kidney infections may occur in one or both kidneys.
The kidneys remove waste from the body through urine. They also balance the water and mineral content in the blood. An infection may prevent them from working properly.
Normal Anatomy of the Kidney
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Kidney infections are caused by a bacteria. The specific type of bacteria can vary. The bacteria most often comes from an untreated
Bacteria may be introduced to the urinary tract and ultimately the kidneys by: Sexual activity
Conditions that block or slow the flow of urine such as:
TumorsEnlarged prostate glandKidney stonesBirth defect of the urinary tract, including vesicoureteral reflux
Having a test to examine the bladder—
cystoscopyHaving a catheter or stent placed in the urinary tractConditions that impair bladder emptying like multiple sclerosis and spina bifida
Other medical conditions that increase your risk of infection include: PregnancyRecurrent urinary tract infection
DiabetesPolycystic kidneysSickle cell anemia
kidney transplantWeakened immune system
Symptoms of kidney infection may include: Pain in the abdomen, lower back, side, or groinFrequent urinationUrgent urination that produces only a small amount of urineSensation of a full bladder—even after urinationBurning pain with urinationFever and chillsNausea and vomitingPus and blood in the urineLoss of appetite
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids will be tested. This can be done with: Blood testsUrine tests
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: Kidney ultrasoundAbdominal CT scanX-rayMRI scan
Complications from untreated or poorly treated kidney infection can lead to:
A serious infection that spreads throughout the body—
sepsisChronic infectionSevere kidney disease, which may result in scarring of tissue or permanent damage
You will be treated with antibiotics. Be sure to take all of the medication. Antibiotics may need to be delivered through an IV. This may require a stay in the hospital.
Surgical correction of vesicoureteral reflux in children may reduce risk of a kidney infection.
Kidney infection is often a complication of a bladder infection. You can prevent bladder infections if you: Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Cranberry juice is a good choice to prevent bladder infection.Practice good hygiene.Urinate as soon as you feel the urge. Take showers rather than baths.
Wipe from the front to the back after using the toilet.Urinate before and after sex. Drink water to help flush bacteria.Avoid genital deodorant sprays and douches.
Pyelonephritis: Kidney infection.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/kidney-disease/pyelonephritis-kidney-infection/Pages/index.aspx. Updated June 11, 2012. Accessed August 17, 2015.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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